First, I must admit that my right forearm is sore and a bit shaking right now, so much so that it is a struggle for me to type but I will soldier on.
I am in pain -- and slightly humiliated -- because today I was destroyed in badminton by Mrs. Wu. She is a 20-year veteran of the teaching staff here and, apparently, a badminton badass.
After dinner a couple of senior 2 (high school juniors) asked me if I was busy. I suggested badminton. I had been wanting to play and the new rackets and birdies I bought last week had yet to be taken out of the case.
Next to one of the students' dorms are a couple of courts. The net is just a string tied to two poles but it does the job. The boys and I played for half an hour before Mrs. Wu appeared, watching from the sidelines.
She was dressed in a pretty green top, black slacks and heels. She smiled as she watched and commented on her students' shots.
I walked over to her and asked in Chinese, "Do you want to play?"
I expected her to decline but she agreed immediately. The boys stepped aside and Mrs. Wu and I took the court.
From the start, I knew she was good. She whipped the birdie at me hard with little effort, only swinging her right arm. She looked relaxed and wore an easy smile the entire time we played.
I, on the other hand, felt my competitive juices flowing. I put my whole body into every shot. My face was tense and I grunted. My shoulder started to burn. My thumb was red where I gripped the racket. I could feel my sweat soaking through my shirt.
But even when I tried to slam the birdie across the net, the birdie only floated down.
"Do this," she said, and flicked her wrist.
So I did and it worked. The birdie started floating closer to the net. But my sudden improvement in playing only made Mrs. Wu increase the difficulty of the return shots I had to make. She sometimes rocketed the birdie so high to test my timing, or tapped it so lightly that I had to dive forward. All the while, she stood in the same place, right arm easily swinging.
"We play every morning here. You should come," she said. At 6 a.m.
When we finished our game, she again encouraged me to join the game. I said I would come.
"But I won't be as good as all of you," I said.
Mrs. Wu only laughed. She knew that already.